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scientific research about why a toast always lands on the buttered face when it falls from the table
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Posted 9/5/13
Are you insinuating there is something more important we could be doing with scientific research?
Posted 9/5/13
But...But...What if there IS no butter on the toast? Then what?
Posted 9/6/13 , edited 9/6/13

Fanboyish wrote:

http://www.improbable.com/ig/

It's not like all scientific research has to be revolutionary--or even novel.

I love how some people use the word "science" like it's magic or something only the extremely gifted can appreciate. Too often it's used to sell products and the like (it's scientifically proven!!). Like everyone gets their idea of a scientist from bad si-fi films where the anti-social "genius" creates some far-fetched device or convenient means to save the world--all thanks to their "life's work".

Real science isn't so dramatic and more importantly not all science is that work intensive. It's not like a team of the world's leading scientists locked themselves in a lab somewhere for a few months to finally crack the code behind this oh-so-important mystery.

"The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology."

It's just for thought-provoking fun, like a chemistry demo for kids where they dip a racket ball in liquid nitrogen and shatter it or make a pumpkin appear to vomit using hydrogen peroxide
.

Just let them have their fun before they get back to their dooms-day devices.

Edit: further reading states that they used kids to conduct the research


This analogy doesn't make sense to me, as Chem demo is not "research", it's a presentation of scientific concepts that's been researched already...

The toast experiment is not a presentation, it's an actual research.


mhibicke wrote:

I'm a researcher, and I think what I do is pretty interesting and important. But the stuff my cohorts work on is usually boring as shit. Useful, or something like it, probably - but boring as shit. My point is that everyone has a different idea of what is useful and interesting, and that's probably a good thing.

Personally, I think the man who got the data on 10,000 porn stars got some very interesting, useless results.
http://jonmillward.com/blog/studies/deep-inside-a-study-of-10000-porn-stars/


I'm quite surprised by one of the results; MILF is the 2nd most wanted category...


Bavalt wrote:

This.

Science is anything using the scientific method, which is a pretty versatile little system. If you go about it the right way, then trying to find out something as inane as the toast thing is perfectly scientific. All you need is a question and a means of testing appropriately to try and find an answer.

Science doesn't need to be ambitious or useful. The goal is knowledge. Too many people treat science as a means to an end nowadays; they're too focused on how the results can be used. Pragmatism isn't necessarily a bad thing, but when you zero in on it to the point where nobody's interested enough to put in the effort, then why bother? I'd go for an exciting or fun idea over a useful one any day.


I'm not against creative or fun scientific research, but a lot of researchers have trouble getting funding for research that might actually help lives... and then when I see research like this toast research, it's just... well... unfair.

But it's their money, so it's not like I have any right to force them to not do the research, just criticizing.


minatothegreatjiraiya wrote:

Are you insinuating there is something more important we could be doing with scientific research?


Yes... like stem cells.


puellapeanut wrote:

But...But...What if there IS no butter on the toast? Then what?


Maybe it'll land standing up...
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Posted 9/6/13

GayAsianBoy wrote:
I'm quite surprised by one of the results; MILF is the 2nd most wanted category...

Right? But I suppose it's the most believable scenario that doesn't make people feel like criminals. I mean, everybody knows a MILF (or someone equivalent) that seems just barely out of reach. It's pretty easy to imagine what might happen if you could just pull together some courage.
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Posted 9/6/13 , edited 9/6/13
The comparison I was making was that Ig Nobel Prizes don't ever involve serious research. Each presentation is only a minute long--so their findings aren't anything remotely profound or perhaps even novel. The experiments people present there are meant to be entertaining first and foremost, but hopefully invoke some creative thought into already established science. In chem demos, the presenters use perfectly good resources for cheap fun for kids, but hopefully the kids will think about what they saw and be curious.

The "research" portion of the experiment involved kids pushing toast off table in different ways. The kids were involved for their own fun, so I doubt they were paid. I could have probably paid for the bread. And the results were analyzed with good old free math as that's what the findings make commentary on.

Honestly, worrying about this is more a waste of human resources than if they did it again.

Please...don't compare this to stem cell research.

Also, the butter was irrelevant.
Posted 9/7/13 , edited 9/7/13

Fanboyish wrote:

The comparison I was making was that Ig Nobel Prizes don't ever involve serious research. Each presentation is only a minute long--so their findings aren't anything remotely profound or perhaps even novel. The experiments people present there are meant to be entertaining first and foremost, but hopefully invoke some creative thought into already established science. In chem demos, the presenters use perfectly good resources for cheap fun for kids, but hopefully the kids will think about what they saw and be curious.

The "research" portion of the experiment involved kids pushing toast off table in different ways. The kids were involved for their own fun, so I doubt they were paid. I could have probably paid for the bread. And the results were analyzed with good old free math as that's what the findings make commentary on.

Honestly, worrying about this is more a waste of human resources than if they did it again.

Please...don't compare this to stem cell research.

Also, the butter was irrelevant.




The Ig Nobel Prize point made sense to me. But the Chem demo part didn't make sense to me at all.


My thread is not about Chem demo or scientific presentations in schools and whatnot to engage kids in learning; my thread is about a scientific research that I think is useless...


Engaging presentations are in no way useless (even though they use up expensive resources), as they are tools of learning with a sole purpose of teaching kids about science in an engaging manner.
The purpose of the toast experiment was not to engage kids to science, it was to find out why the buttered face of a toast lands on the ground.


Anyway, if you think the Chem demo point you've made was relevant to your initial discussion, then I won't say anything further.




Reason I've made this thread is to start conversations... with fellow forumers.
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Posted 9/7/13 , edited 9/7/13

GayAsianBoy wrote:


Fanboyish wrote:

The comparison I was making was that Ig Nobel Prizes don't ever involve serious research. Each presentation is only a minute long--so their findings aren't anything remotely profound or perhaps even novel. The experiments people present there are meant to be entertaining first and foremost, but hopefully invoke some creative thought into already established science. In chem demos, the presenters use perfectly good resources for cheap fun for kids, but hopefully the kids will think about what they saw and be curious.

The "research" portion of the experiment involved kids pushing toast off table in different ways. The kids were involved for their own fun, so I doubt they were paid. I could have probably paid for the bread. And the results were analyzed with good old free math as that's what the findings make commentary on.

Honestly, worrying about this is more a waste of human resources than if they did it again.

Please...don't compare this to stem cell research.

Also, the butter was irrelevant.




The Ig Nobel Prize point made sense to me. But the Chem demo part didn't make sense to me at all.


My thread is not about Chem demo or scientific presentations in schools and whatnot to engage kids in learning; my thread is about a scientific research that I think is useless...


Engaging presentations are in no way useless (even though they use up expensive resources), as they are tools of learning with a sole purpose of teaching kids about science in an engaging manner.
The purpose of the toast experiment was not to engage kids to science, it was to find out why the buttered face of a toast lands on the ground.


Anyway, if you think the Chem demo point you've made was relevant to your initial discussion, then I won't say anything further.




Reason I've made this thread is to start conversations... with fellow forumers.


Well, the part about the kids themselves wasn't so much the point as that in both cases entertainment took priority over practicality/usefulness (and of course that neither was very hard to put together), and also that the quirky things going on in both cases can be thought-provoking, albeit shallow (yes, even the toast experiment). The mention of kids in the toast experiment wasn't a comparison to educating kids, but that the use of kids suggests a low-budget operation. Pointless or not, the toast experiment isn't a significant use of resources, and is for amusement, so it's not to be taken seriously. But if that point isn't coming across then I'll just drop it.

Nevertheless, that you think this kind of research is pointless is perfectly understandable, because it is in a sense. I guess it just irritated me a little to see the mention of stem cell research being a better use of science, because when juxtaposed with the whole "this kind of research is pointless", it insinuates that the toast experiment might be a distraction.

The toast experiment isn't even a dot on their radar--it's trite. But I understand this isn't that serious of a thread, I'm just sharing my opinion on the matter. My opinion being that even though a certain pointless activity can be classified as a scientific experiment, that doesn't make it worth equating to other experiments in any sense, so it's not worth worrying about in that regard.

Which is fine, right...? I'm not a "fellow forumer" in that I'm your friend, but I didn't think I couldn't join the conversation. As far as this thread being about scientific research you think is pointless, I got the impression it was subjugated to what others thought of this specific experiment.
Posted 9/7/13 , edited 9/7/13

Fanboyish wrote:

Which is fine, right...? I'm not a "fellow forumer" in that I'm your friend, but I didn't think I couldn't join the conversation. As far as this thread being about scientific research you think is pointless, I got the impression it was subjugated to what others thought of this specific experiment.


That line was a reply to this line, "Honestly, worrying about this is more a waste of human resources than if they did it again."
I'm not worrying about it, that's why I said I started this thread to start a conversation with other forumers.

And see, we have a flowing conversation going on right now, even though you might think it leads to nowhere... (according to this line you said, "Honestly, worrying about this is more a waste of human resources than if they did it again.")

Basically, you're criticizing that my thread is more useless than the toast experiment, and I'm just replying that it's not, since I'm just trying to start conversation with you and other people.


I just like hearing other people's opinion, regardless if it's the same view as mine or a different view. Sometimes I search for more explanation when somebody makes a statement about something and I thank you for explaining it further.

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Posted 9/7/13

GayAsianBoy wrote:

I just saw an article about this scientific research, and I was thinking to myself, "Really?" "Is this something so important that it required a team of scientists to research about it?"


Anyway, I'm too lazy to look up the article again and link it here.


I just want to know other people's opinion on this.


P.S. I'm not even a hater of scientific research, but this research is such a joke to me, imo.


You guys have some weird preconceptions about "scientific research". You see this pointless exercise as if was done by important people goofing off on the job on the governments [your] dime; it isn't. It's just people having fun on their own time and money (they didn't actually put much effort in, they asked 1000 kids to try the experiment and report their results).

Not your specific comment quoted, but others make me sad that people can't even comprehend this (the same kind of person that believe god will help their sick kids instead of medicine, or blame the government for everything even though they're on welfare)
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Posted 9/7/13 , edited 9/7/13

minatothegreatjiraiya wrote:

Are you insinuating there is something more important we could be doing with scientific research?


GayAsianBoy wrote:


Yes... like stem cells.




This is the problem I'm talking about. You think science is just all the researchers of every field in one big room or something. Even if the people that did this 'just happened' to be the same ones that do stem cell research (there are a lot of them, it's not like 5 ppl anyway), it's insane to think that they aren't allowed to have fun or do something else, and just stupid to think they're getting and wasting grants just to keep dropping buttered toast on the ground (if you read another persons link, you'll also find they asked 1000 kids to do it for them and report their findings. I could do that right here from my computer in my underwear no problem). The stupidity of the human race is just astounding. Not the people from the experiment, the people like you.
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Posted 9/7/13 , edited 9/7/13

GayAsianBoy wrote:


Fanboyish wrote:

Which is fine, right...? I'm not a "fellow forumer" in that I'm your friend, but I didn't think I couldn't join the conversation. As far as this thread being about scientific research you think is pointless, I got the impression it was subjugated to what others thought of this specific experiment.


That line was a reply to this line, "Honestly, worrying about this is more a waste of human resources than if they did it again."
I'm not worrying about it, that's why I said I started this thread to start a conversation with other forumers.

And see, we have a flowing conversation going on right now, even though you might think it leads to nowhere... (according to this line you said, "Honestly, worrying about this is more a waste of human resources than if they did it again.")

Basically, you're criticizing that my thread is more useless than the toast experiment, and I'm just replying that it's not, since I'm just trying to start conversation with you and other people.


I just like hearing other people's opinion, regardless if it's the same view as mine or a different view. Sometimes I search for more explanation when somebody makes a statement about something and I thank you for explaining it further.



I see, in that case I misunderstood your intent.

But it wasn't my intention to call this thread pointless; discussion itself isn't pointless. I'm basically comparing the uselessness of the toast experiment to worrying about the misuse of resources because of such experiments--which seemed more specific. I think that such worrying won't prove productive in the way one intends it to be, and is ironic when one also thinks of the toast experiment as being a hinder to productive experimentation--so it's just as pointless.

And even if this thread took that specific stance...I can't honestly say it would make it pointless. Because any discussion is worthwhile as long as something can be gained--like new perspective. I'm too, am all for learning new perspective.

But...I often have trouble conveying my thoughts to others, at least accurately.

Edit: Kind of random here but I will say that I tend to be a whiner when it comes to resource usage. Like when I read about how much bread they used I thought, "okay, that's kind of wasteful". I say whiner, because I'm just as guilty of poor resource usage.
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Posted 9/7/13
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Posted 9/7/13

Axerith wrote:

This is the problem I'm talking about. You think science is just all the researchers of every field in one big room or something. Even if the people that did this 'just happened' to be the same ones that do stem cell research (there are a lot of them, it's not like 5 ppl anyway), it's insane to think that they aren't allowed to have fun or do something else, and just stupid to think they're getting and wasting grants just to keep dropping buttered toast on the ground (if you read another persons link, you'll also find they asked 1000 kids to do it for them and report their findings. I could do that right here from my computer in my underwear no problem). The stupidity of the human race is just astounding. Not the people from the experiment, the people like you.



There's always going to be an opposition to something... you can't expect everyone to think uniformly.


What bothers me is that this toast experiment is not something small or something they do in their spare time with little cost, it was a big scaled project... like you said, involving 1000 children, with an aim that is ridiculous and the result does not help anything or anyone in any way.

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Posted 9/9/13 , edited 9/9/13

GayAsianBoy wrote:

There's always going to be an opposition to something... you can't expect everyone to think uniformly.


What bothers me is that this toast experiment is not something small or something they do in their spare time with little cost, it was a big scaled project... like you said, involving 1000 children, with an aim that is ridiculous and the result does not help anything or anyone in any way.



Be careful saying things like "doesn't help anyone in any way." At the very least, it started this thread, gave some people a laugh, and cured someone's boredom (which I claim is actually the point of science, but I'd rather not argue that right now -- maybe it'll be relevant later. We'll see I guess).

But I get what you were saying. So you don't think the experiment has any merit? Fair enough. Since I assume you've actually read the paper, you should know that it was part of the larger project of Robert Matthews's investigation of Murphy's Law (anything that can go wrong will). You can think of the experiment as an investigation into why toast falls buttered side down, but that would be missing Matthews's point. The fact is, a large amount of people hold a strong opinion on Murphy's law, and looking at the validity and reasons for believing this law seems to be as worthy a study (to me) as most psychological and sociological studies. The bulk of the paper talked about the implications of the experiment to Murphy's law -- the primary factor being that the height of the table is absolutely critical to the results. If the table is higher or lower, then the toast falls to one side about 50% of the time, or buttered side up if the table is low enough.

Why is this important? It makes the implication that Murphy's law is not a result of physics (or if you like: God didn't design the world against you). It is a result of Humans designing their world in poor coordination with physics. Humans design their world in a way that makes it more likely that things will go wrong if given the chance. If we just make our tables higher, things will be as likely to go wrong as right. I think this idea has a bit of merit. Whether it was worth the time is up to the people spending it, and whether it was worth the money depends on the how much was spent. At the very least, there is some amount of money I would feel justified in paying to investigate why people think things will go wrong if they can. You can make the claim that the experiment doesn't have any bearing on this issue (in which case you're just claiming he's a shitty scientist), but that is different than saying that the phenomenon in question is worth studying. Regardless of whether or not you take Murphy's law seriously -- a lot of people do. Looking at the validity of a belief that a large group of people hold seems a worthy endeavor to me. How much is it worth though?

The paper didn't seem to disclose the cost of the experiment, but we can guess at it. The data show that 1,000 kids dropped 21,000 slices of bread. Pretty easy -- 21 slices per kid. Since the number seems approximately correct, I'd venture to make the assumption that the actual experiment was for each kid to drop a loaf of buttered bread on the floor. So let me ask this: Would you buy a loaf of bread to understand Murphy's law? Even if I wouldn't, I very frequently "waste" more money than that fooling around with curiosities that are far more banal. But to be clear, do you think that there exist 1,000 people that would each pay a loaf of bread to sate their curiosity? Damn straight. I'm not sure how much the experiment actually cost, but if we're looking at the cost of 1,000 loaves of (probably) the cheapest bread they could find, we're looking at only a few thousand US dollars, which would probably not make any significant sort of difference to the causes you might find significant, although I also understand that any help is good help, but that's a different question.


But then again, this is just one experiment (from almost 10 years ago, but whatever). "OK, so even if this experiment makes (a slight bit of) sense, it's just one experiment. It doesn't change the main point." I could see an argument like this. So, let's look at the main point:

To what extent should we fork over money to figure stuff out? I can explain my reasons in detail if you doubt them, but for now I will take the assumption that the only thing that a scientist truly seeks to fulfill is curiosity. In order to justify it to others, they need to make the case that it's good for others to pay them. This (I would guess) usually means verifying that the study is (in some fashion) good for society. But the real reason that I believe people study things is because they are interested in what they study. They might be interested because it's good for society, or because it will make them reputable, but they nevertheless do it out of some sort of interest. At any rate, my point is that the experiments that are worth putting money into are the ones that are interesting. I may not be interested in the likelihood that my toast will butter my floor, but I am interested in thinking about why things sometimes appear to go wrong whenever they can. Whether or not your taxes, tuition, or whatever are going to good use, then, depends on whether you are a better judge of what's interesting than the people that backed the study. I'm not convinced that's the case (I don't know you or those people very well).
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Posted 9/9/13 , edited 9/9/13
Also, maybe a bit of a spoiler if you all wanted to read the actual paper, but the butter has almost no effect on trajectory. The reason it lands butter side down is an almost exclusive result of the height we place our tables and the torque that rotates the bread. Put the table higher and the probability is about 50/50, or spin the bread really fast and the probability is about 50/50. Drop the bread straight down, and it'll probably land butter up. The butter itself is basically irrelevant. Don't put any butter, and it'll still probably land on the "butter" side (or rather where the butter side would have been).
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